BS team 2 Jo and Alison

Improving oral health with Smile Together

Our Brighter Smiles team – Jo, Alison and Dylan

Jo started working as a dental nurse in 1999 in general practice, qualifying in 2004 where the majority of patients she saw were adults attending the dentist for regular dental care. On moving to West Country Dental Care, Jo initially worked in the access clinic environment which gave her an insight to the extent of tooth decay in the local community. She then turned her focus on orthodontic dentistry supporting teenage patients. Upon achieving her Certificate in Oral Health Education through the National Examination Board of Dental Nurses, and fluoride varnishing qualifications, she was inspired to make even more of a difference for local children and thus became lead oral health dental nurse for Brighter Smiles. In this role she delivers key oral health messages to both children and adults, applies fluoride varnish to the teeth of children at high risk of dental decay, and records outcomes to help demonstrate the impact of our Brighter Smiles programme in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Alison has a BA Honours Degree in Religious and Educational Studies from Winchester University and has vast experience working in educational and social care environments, as well as being Junior Church Leader, parent to two young children and volunteering as a Brownie Leader. She now applies this experience to making sure the Brighter Smiles programme is administratively well organised and delivered, liaising closely with the schools to make all the necessary arrangements for the successful delivery of Cornwall’s oral health campaign.

Working with Dylan, the Brighter Smiles Dragon, Jo and Alison say:

We literally go right into the heart of our communities to build the foundations for good oral health care from an early age – we live in a beautiful part of the country but Cornwall has some very deprived areas which correlate with high levels of tooth decay and extractions under general anaesthetic, especially for children aged 5-9 years of age.

Brighter Smiles is enabling us to not only tackle preventable tooth decay but educate the children so they go home and influence their parents and other family members.

We love working with the children – they are funny and entertaining, but we have to gain their trust and adapt our approach accordingly to reassure them that it’s OK. So many children we engage with have never been to see a dentist – that’s why we like going into the classroom. It’s arguably a less intimidating environment than a dental surgery and they’re with their friends, their peers, and they can have a positive first experience of dental care together. We make it as interactive and as much fun as we can, and they love Dylan!

Tooth brushing clubs build a very solid basis for good oral health care amongst nursery and reception children – it really is a foundation for teeth that last a lifetime.  They genuinely welcome us, and their recall is always very good on what they learned from our previous visits.

The fluoride ‘meet and greet’ sessions are an opportunity to talk to parents not just about Brighter Smiles for the younger children but general nutrition and oral health care for the whole family. To appreciate that baby teeth are important, and that early decay and extraction can have a significant and detrimental effect on adult teeth. So often this influences the school community too and we find them changing too, such as bringing in healthy snacks and water-only policies in drinks bottles during the school day.

It’s amazing how often children, including those with special care needs, relax and allow the fluoride varnishing to be applied to their teeth – this quite often surprises the teachers and their parents, but who wouldn’t rise to the challenge of ‘opening your mouth wide like a tiger’!